We had a minor mishap in our kitchen. The end result required purchasing a new stove top. Naturally the new one was slightly a different size. The resident chef did his thing and researched options to cut the 1/4 inch of our granite tile. While studying up he came across a horror story of a family who did $34,000 worth of damage to their house by cutting granite and sucking the silica dust into the heating ducts. We wisely decided to hire a professional. We also built a tent to control the dust.
"The Martian" is one of the rare times when I liked the movie as much as the book. You remember the scene when Matt Damon built an ecosystem out of plastic and duct tape? He did better than us.
I briefly considered trying to recall my college calculus and geometry and figure out the correct way to proceed. It was easier to wing it and add more tape.
I just fisnished reading "Hidden Figures" about the black women mathmeticians who where instrumental in NASA's early days. The movie was fun, full of emotionally high charged moments and Hollywood inspiration. The truth portrayed in book was different. The changes came slowly through determination and plodding effort. The character of the women ran deep. The book was about relationships, about volunteering with Girl Scouts and Sunday School, about climbing the ladder so people behind you could follow. It was about brilliance, math and science and new frontiers. I was impressed by the grace with which these ladies faced racism. They prevailed through hard work and self control. The book was not as flashy as the Hollywood version but the strength was impressive.
Sometimes its ok to go with the easy add more tape method in life. But if you want to build something which lasts I would recommend the hard work version.
Recently one of my cousins and his wife took in 4 children through the foster parent program.
Rescued from unspeakable circumstances.
They were each given baths the first night. None had ever seen a wash cloth and didn't know what it was for.
They'd never heard about Jesus.
Never heard a prayer or been prayed for.
Never seen Gone With the Wind or The Wizard of Oz.
Never rode a bicycle before.
My cousin has shared with me how each of the children is unfolding and blossoming on a daily basis.
One learned to ride a bike in a day and his self confidence has soared. We are all like these lost children.
We have been saved, for some, from unspeakable circumstances.
We were dirty and didn't know how to be washed clean.
We've never heard the name of our Savior.
We haven't experienced the joys of living in His care.
But He took us in.
He loved us even though the only love we knew was dark and ugly.
He showed us real love.
As we grow in His love and acceptance our self confidence also grows.
We unfold and bloom in the sunshine of His smile as we realize what true love is really like.
Lacey Buchanan is a tiger mom. I would call her a mama bear but that's so cliche. Lacey Buchanan is anything but cliche. Her new book, Through the Eyes of Hope, is a honest, tough, messy and gorgeous look at embracing life and fighting for the ones you love.
Lacey and her husband had a fairytale romance and were thrilled when they discovered they were expecting. Ultrasounds reviewed a birth defect. The Buchanans decided to accept what God sent. However, when little Christian was born they were shocked by the degree of his birth defect. Christian was born with a severe cleft pallet and his eyes did not form. Enter doctors, surgeries, insurance forms and heartbreaking comments from strangers.
Lacey pours out their story with raw truth, plenty of grace around mistakes and the love of her son. The mighty abundance of God is what I saw the most. If you have ever struggled with questions about your life and how hardships can become your strength then you need to read this book. Grab some tissues.
I'm passing on this copy to a subscriber to the Quirk E-mail. If you aren't a member yet sign up today.
Lacey's viral video about her baby and the lessons she learned is a great way to start your day. Watch below.
Twelve years... Twelve years of being an only child.
Did I mind? Nope. Was I lonely? ...Nope.
Well, that all changed when my dad and step-mom adopted a little girl. But hey, it's just one sibling, right? Not that huge of an adjustment.
One year later...one short, brother-less year later... My mom remarried. And her new husband...had three children.
*cue dramatic music*
Okay okay, so this is a little exaggerated. Honestly, having siblings was a nice change. I'm an extremely social person, so an extra sibling...or four...was enjoyable for me. Well, once we established the pecking order and they all knew who was really in charge (me, in case you were wondering) everything was just dandy.
In all actuality, the biggest ripple caused in the ever-growing river of my family was my littlest sibling. Sheppard Kristian, the hybrid product of my mom and stepdad, my only blood related sibling, the kid who topped a blended family off with whipped cream and a cherry...the tiny little whirlwind of energy that sets the house ablaze and then douses the flames with an outpouring of adorable...
This is the story of the entrance of that little boy on a (very unsuspecting) family.
I guess before I start this off, I should clarify that my dad and my stepmom lived in Knoxville, TN, and my mom and stepdad lived in the west coast. At the time, I alternated living 6 months in Tennessee and 6 months in Washington. Well, on the day I received a very special phone call from Washington, I was sitting on my couch in Tennessee.
I looked at the phone to see that my stepdad was calling me. I answered, and he put me on speaker phone with him, my mom, and my 3 step siblings. "We have a surprise for all of you," he said. "I want you each to guess what it is." I, being the smart mouth that I am, jokingly said "Ha, Mom's pregnant." My counterparts all guessed random things, like "Dad got a new job" "We're moving to Alaska" etc.
"Well, one of you was actually correct." Uh oh... "It's Amberly. Mom's pregnant." At this point, we hear an eruption of "WHAT!?!?" exploding from me and my siblings. "Are you serious?!" "There's more," he added. "It's a boy...and she's 5 months along."
Speechless. Utterly speechless.
A few short weeks later, I was sitting on an airplane across the row from my mom, heading back to Washington after they met me down in Tennessee for my stepdad's family reunion. I just remember sitting there, looking at her, thinking about how I never would've imagined seeing my mom carrying another human...wondering if she looked the same when she was pregnant with me. Also, I was marveling at the fact that she was on board an airplane while in her third trimester...
Three months after that, I was sitting in a doctor's office with my mom for her pre-op appointment. Because she had me by c-section, and since she was...*cough*...older...now, she'd have to have Sheppard by a scheduled c-section as well. All I remember of that pre-op appointment was the reality of my mom going into a major surgery and the fact that they'd have to put a needle in her spine - the explanation of which nearly put me on the floor.
On an afternoon in September, I sat in the waiting room with my stepbrother and a couple of friends, awaiting the arrival of my little brother. I was anxious out of my mind, thinking of my mom on an operating table, when the only other surgery she'd ever had was when I graced the world with my presence (ha! As if...)
I don't remember how long the operation took, or what I did while I waited (aside from being amused by my youth pastor purposely tripping and falling on his face in the middle of a hospital hallway.) What I do remember is finally being allowed in the room with my mom, turning the corner and seeing this tiny 5 pound human. I looked at him in awe, trying to fathom the fact that he was my brother - and how crazy it was that the 15 year gap between us didn't seem to change how that felt. I vowed right then and there that I'd love and protect him no matter what, and that I'd always be his big sister.
It's been almost 6 years. That little boy has turned into this whirlwind child who has a mind that sometimes confuses my own with its genius. He got his daddy's brain and his mama's heart - he got the energy, adventurousness, and stubbornness of both of them combined.
That little boy is going to change the world someday. He comes from a dynamic family of creative, logical, forwarding thinking people who are passionate about the Lord and never stop working hard. I'm blessed to be called a part of that family.
I'm blessed to be called a big sister.
Last week was less than excellent. Employee drama, had to put our cat down, wrecked my car and personally delivered a stellar mom failure. My husband and I were also tracking an overwhelming list of things we need to address. Paint on the house peeling, moles in the yard. You know. All the adult stuff.
I am out of town at a work conference. Nice distraction. Good view. I'm in Seattle. I love to travel. It's even fun to visit places I have been before. New circumstances sometimes lead to new perspectives.
After the past session today (PCI DSS, SASSE 16, IOS, PPMS - a full alphabet soup of fun) I headed out to find dinner and some photos.
Seattle in the summer is gorgeous. Floral baskets, water and trees and mountains on every vista. Music and smiles. (If you aren't from Washington I'm actually lying. It's ugly here. Rains all the time. No need to move here).
I watched the guys throw fish. Bought spiced tea and multi colored vegan and organic noodles.
I talked a fruit stand into selling me a box of raspberries even though technically they closed five minutes prior.
I chose a little Turkish restaurant for dinner. I bought chicken kabobs with tomato, onion and lentil soup dressing and wandered down the street, past the original Starbucks (big huge line) and sat in the park facing the water to eat my feast.
There was a man digging through the trash for his dinner. He found a a bag of chicken and a packet of BBQ sauce. He laid it out on the bench like a grand buffet.
Outside my hotel there sits a young lady with pink hair. Nice nails. Tracks on her arms and sadness in her eyes. I handed her the bag of raspberries. She smiled and said thank you.
I owe God an apology. The last couple days I've been keeping lists of things to do, sad woes I've endured and recounted injuries to my girlfriends.
This is a better list.
I'm grateful for water and sunshine and trees. For music aand some cash in my pocket. I'm grateful for insurance and forgiveness and committment. Thankful for work and roof and a clean bill of health. I'm grateful for Turkish immigrants and fish. I am grateful for the girl with pink hair.
Okay. Before I tell you this story I really have to state I do know how to back up a car. For eleven years I lived at the bottom of s steep, gravel, curved road. I could back up it with my stick shift in the dark and rain. So this story is not about my lack of driving skill. It's about my inattention.
My husbad is a kind and patient person. He came and rescued me and my car. He even stuck the broken off piece of trim in the back of his car. Without snide, sarcastic or demeaning comment. He wins.
This is my sweet friend whose brick wall I massacred. She didn't yell at me either. Neither did her two lovely neighbors. I woke them up on a Sunday morning. They came out of their house, took a look at my car and then said. "Oh girl!" About summed it up.
While waiting for my spouse to come assess the situation my youngest was running up and down the driveway. She tripped and gloriously skinned her knees. My friend scooped her up on a massive hug and went to find bandaids.
Friends and Family. This is what to do. When your friends fall down help them up. When your family crashes come to the rescue. We all know this is right. My accident was due to inattention not lack of knowledge. We do the most harm to our relationships not because we do not know the right way to go but because we fail to pay attention.
Thanks team. I love you.
Two weeks ago I hauled my aging cat to the vet. We should qualify for a frequent visitor award. This time his face had ballooned up and he couldn't open his eye. My professional opinion (okay fine...I googled it) was he either had a tooth abcess or had been in a fight. Again.
I know. I know. Cat owners are supposed to keep their cats inside. This particular cat was having none of that. He was born 17 years ago to a wild barn cat out in the boonies. I heard the kittens were being picked off by coyotes and so I went into rescue mode and he showed up at my house in a big cardboard box. He was indignant. If I make him stay inside anywhere too long he gets that same look.
The little guy was a tad too young to leave his mama and so our dog Ripely adopted the cat. Ripley carried him around in her mouth and allowed the cat to attempt cross species nursing. They bonded quickly and were best friends until we had to put Ripley down a couple of years ago. The cat didn't eat for days. I took him to the vet. They fixed him up with some appetite supporters and we switched him to the good stuff.
One week ago, after we'd let a round of antibiotics do their thing, I took the cat back in for a consult.
AaaaHHH!!!! $1000 estimate for two teeth extraction and support. On a 17 year old cat. What to do. What to do.
The starving kids in Africa, my kid who is ready for braces, a tree we need to pay to have taken down and a spouse who is sick of the cat peeing everywhere were weighing on me.
And yet. This sweet boy.
Guilt...in either decision. Grace shows up in the hard and ugly right? In the petty little things that don't globally matter but which rock our day worlds? Right?
My friend wisely observed it's so hard to make decisions based on the end of a life.
No kidding. Thoughts of Charlie Gard and his parents fighting the entire British government flood my brain. Perspective is good.
There are moms in Syria boiling cardboard right now to feed their children as dinner.
My cat eats better than the children in Syria.
The blood work came back and revealed my pet has been betrayed by his kidneys. Surgery was pointless. Saddened and strangely relieved because the decision was obvious now, I scheduled one last appointment with the vet.
I leaked grief in quiet moments all week. In the little clinicians room I struggled to hold it together. I failed. Head down on exam table I broke down while waiting for the vet to come. My kids were crying. My husband was a stable force of comfort. He patted my back and kissed my forehead. Held the girls. I pulled it together and we all said goodbye.
I pause sometimes and shake my head at the photos of kids in Syria eating cardboard for dinner. I haven't once sobbed over their plight. I think perhaps God wants my heart to break for hurting kids more than my cat.
Don't mistake me. It is good to love well and deeply all of creation. Barn cats included. We learn much, love grows.
C S Lewis wrote this about your heart “If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket —safe, dark, motionless, airless —it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
If one of my children was crying Casey would come sit beside them. His warmth and weight would settle their spirit. Cats are proof that one of the best ways to love hurting people is to just be present. On a rough day I would take great comfort in him just sitting on my lap. Yesterday my husband's hand on my back was enough.
What I know is my life was better because of this cat. I also know his life was saved because I chose to save him. The coyotes lost because I made a decision to love despite the cost to my wallet, to my carpet or to my heart.
You know the obvious sermon there. Our lives are redeemed because a creator chooses us. Despite the cost. He invites us to a feast of the good stuff.
He also invites us to to be involved in a rescue. Sometimes it'll break your heart. It'll cost something. But you can make a difference by choosing to be present, to invest, love, laugh and grieve.. Indoor cats are safer but the ones who go outside have adventures. Go outside. Hearts don't belong in cardboard caskets.
June 19th- On this day we filled our house with family and celebrated Father's Day. We feasted on corn on the cob, fruit salad, rice and baked chicken. But not just any chicken- three separate flavors. The three 13x9 glass Pyrex pans took up whole oven. We all dug into the food and later the dishes. We had the kitchen and dining room cleaned up in record time. It was a Father's Day celebration to remember.
June 27th- This day was designated to scouring the house from the top down and bottom up. The blinds were cleaned, carpet vacuumed, glass stovetop polished, furniture dusted, bathrooms scrubbed, laundry completely caught up. I felt quite pleased with my domestic accomplishments and patted myself on the back. I even called my mom to brag about how much I accomplished and how my house was shining.
June 28- This was the day my son woke up and asked if we could make muffins. Having completely cleaned the house the day before I agreed. Together we preheated the oven, mixed the batter, and filled the muffin tins. I asked my miniature baking assistant to stand back and I opened the oven door and promptly stuck my foot in my mouth while simultaneously popping my eyes as wide as they could go. I was caught up in a moment of humiliation and hilarity. There in the oven were my three big Pyrex dishes sticky and gross from our big family dinner almost ten days prior. Yuck! Thank goodness there were no moldy chunks of food left--it was mostly just caked on dried up, ten day old sauce. I'm embarrassed to even publicly admit this foible!
I wonder if that's how the religious leaders felt when Jesus pointedly called them out saying, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." (Matthew 23:27). I flaunted off the fact my house was clean but my oven was a mess.
As I started soaking and scrubbing my renegade dishes I thought of the verse that comes just before that reads, "You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that its outside may also be clean" and I remembered who I once was.
I never doubted the existence of God, but I did question His goodness. I grew up in a great church. I had the benefit of amazing Sunday School teachers and children's programs. I had family members who were pastors and missionaries who spoke into my life. My parents daily lived out their Christian faith. I memorized bible verses and sang in the children's choir. I put on my frilly dresses and patent leather shoes every Sunday. I learned quickly how to act the part.
When I was nine I sat in my room playing with my seven year old cousin. We were dressing Barbie dolls and she got very quiet and looked at me and said, "Michelle, I'm going to die." It was discovered that she had childhood leukemia. I immediately responded by telling her, "We are going to pray and if Jesus can walk on water then He can heal you too". She died on Easter weekend.
My trust in the goodness of God was shattered. I continued to go to church with my family. I still got up in front of church and performed. I still put on my Sunday best and acted like a good little Christian girl should. But inside I was festering. My heart was hardened and hate-filled. My parents would tuck me in at night and say prayers with me and I would go through the motions regurgitating words of praise and thankfulness, but as soon as they walked out of the room and the lights were out I would lie in bed and I would spew my hatred out to God. My genuine nightly prayer was..."God, how could you? I hate you. I HATE YOU!" My heart felt like a hot coal in the palm of my hand and no matter how much it hurt and seared my flesh, I could not let go. My hypocritical act went on for years. I was a white washed tomb.
Seventh grade was about to begin. The church just hired a brand new youth pastor. It was my first night in Youth Group. I don't remember the rest of the devotional that night except for one verse that pierced my heart. Romans 5:8 "But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!"
Yet while I hated Him, Christ loved me. Yet while I despised Him, He died for me. That night, alone in my bed, I said a new prayer. "God, if it's true, if you really do love me, take my hatred and give me your kind of love. I'm sorry. Please forgive me." Even though I made Him my enemy- He became my savior.
Ezekiel 36:26 says,"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." He took my heart of hate and replaced it with His heart of love and joy. I was no longer a whitewashed tomb. I was washed from the inside out.
Christ called Lazarus out of the tomb. The tomb that held Christ himself is empty and He called me out of my darkness, doubt and hatred. He is still calling.
Next time I clean my house I will do a more thorough search of my kitchen. Next time I am tempted to question God's goodness I will remember to pray these words from Psalms:
"Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong--
then guide me on the road to eternal life." Psalms 139:23-24
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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